Tuesday 29 August 2017

Mental Health Over Summer: Rachael's Experience

Rachael shares her experience of how best to work and rest during the summer.
- Rachael Johnston

What do you do to help with your mental health over the summer?

I try and keep myself as occupied as possible.  To keep focused, it’s really important for me to plan ahead and have things set in my diary to look forward to. My previous job as a teaching assistant meant I had the whole summer off; however, I’m now a support worker supporting children with additional needs, which makes this summer a bit different.

What do you like to do during the summer?

I have my birthday over the summer, so there is usually the build up to that. I took two weeks annual leave to be able to have some time with my family and friends to celebrate.  I have had a short weekend away with my mum, which was nice, and I braved a massage. I’ve never had a massage, so I’ve decided I want to try and keep up to see if it helps me unwind a bit more.

What do you find hardest in the summer?

When we do get the sun, it usually means shorts and strappy tops. Currently my weight isn’t great, so I’m very body conscious. I also have scarring from self-harm. This summer, I’ve been a bit braver, and on really hot days I’ve just thought ‘sod it’! Then there are the big events and get-togethers! Usually it’s a time when everyone seems to go out and there is never a reasonable excuse not to go, so I try and tell myself to give it a go. If things do get too overwhelming, I can always go, so I find myself driving to places and ditching the alcohol in favour of a quick exit if I need it.

What differences have you found in your mental health over the summer compared to when you’re at university?

I’ve never been a fan of the summer holiday, even when I was in school.  I like being busy and having something to do. So I do notice that when my brain isn’t occupied, I start to feel low. However, when I’ve not been in university for a while, I start to become anxious about going back.  I check and recheck my personalised plan so I can reassure myself that any new tutors know what additional steps need to be taken. I suppose that’s the thing with mental health: no matter what I do, that little voice never seems to be satisfied.

Do you have any advice for other students who struggle with their mental health in the summer?

I’d say plan ahead. If you’re struggling, don’t bottle it in.  If you’re not up to do something which you have planned, be honest and don’t just cancel, my friends have either been able to talk me round into going out for a little while, or they’re happy to find a good film and stay in.
If you have appointments through the summer, stick to them, get to them even if you’d rather be sitting in. Sometimes it helps your therapists to see you in person when you’re really down, to get a fuller understanding of your situation.
To avoid staying stuck in a cycle of wearing the same clothes for days, I also try and set an alarm to have a fixed time when I have to have a shower and change.

Are you interested in getting involved in the “Mental Health over the Summer” blog series? Please do not hesitate to email us at blog@studentminds.org.

Hi, I’m Rachael. I’ve been blogging on and off for a few years now around my experience of living with Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder. Although I’m meant to be on a break from university this summer I requested an extension for my last assignment due to a dip in my mental health, so I’ve been able to keep myself occupied with this summer with uni work and my job as a support worker.

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